Most people think that a car wears out from driving too many miles. While that can be true, it is only part of the story and high mileage alone doesn’t mean much to a professional mechanic. Experienced technicians know that wear and tear is actually a combination of factors, not just how far the car has been driven. We are going to share some things to consider as your car ages. You can keep these in mind if you decide to shop for a previously owned vehicle.
Start-ups and short trips are where the most wear occurs in an engine. A cold engine is under-lubricated and it takes a few seconds for the oil to completely coat the surfaces. The metal itself will begin to expand as the engine warms up and this places stress on all of the gaskets and seals. In a 2 mile trip, the engine barely warms up only to immediately begin cooling and contracting again which reverses the process. Compare this to a long road trip where the engine is steadily warm and lubricated and you can see the difference. A 300-mile journey causes much less wear than 150 trips of 2 miles each! Beyond engine wear itself, the battery, starter, brakes and cooling system have all cycled many more times for all of those short trips.
The age of the car is equally as important as the mileage when considering the useful life of a car. Plastics and wiring suffer from age, becoming brittle and damage prone. With proper maintenance, we can mitigate the wear on moving parts but there is no cure for the ravage of time on rubber or plastic. Here at High Road, we occasionally see 20-year-old automobiles with very low mileage, yet we must treat them gently since so many pieces are easily broken. The simple movement of a hose or wire can cause damage and major headaches since replacement parts can be difficult to find.
When wondering how long your car will last, be sure to judge how it has been used and how well you maintained it. Ask a professional mechanic for an inspection and an opinion. When buying a used car, do your best to learn how the car was driven since the start/stop cycle is so important, and look for a car with good records.
While nothing can predict how long each individual component of an automobile will last, it is the combination of starts/stops/age that seems to give the best idea of overall life left in a car. Drive Safely, The High Road Crew